How To Choose A Financial Advisor

Choosing a financial advisor can be a challenging process. Often people put off finding a new financial advisor even when they know a change should be made because of the difficulty involved in finding a new advisor. Below we have created some points that we feel should be considered when looking to change advisors or to select an advisor for the first time. Clearly finding someone you can trust is paramount, but there are many other factors in addition to trust that should be met as well. Also check out the excellent videos from FP Canada concerning selecting a financial advisor.


  • Qualifications to give financial planning advice – seek out someone that is a qualified financial planner – CFP® – Certified financial planner, RFP – Registered Financial Planner, etc.
  • Qualifications to give investment advice – the more evidence the better. Passing the mutual fund course or the Canadian Securities Course is a minimum requirement. Look for advisors who have designations like the FMA – Financial Management Advisor, CFA – Chartered Financial Analyst, CIM – Chartered Investment Manager, FCSI – Fellow of the Canadian Securities Institute.
  • Qualifications to give insurance advice – CFP®) – Certified Financial Planner, CLU – Chartered Life Underwriter, CH.F.C. – Chartered Financial Consultant, CIP – Chartered Insurance Professional.
  • Look for some qualifications in the areas that you may need advice to ensure that the person is educated sufficiently and responsible to an association for ongoing professional development each year.


  • Sufficient time to have acquired the necessary experience – preferably at least 10 years to have been through one or more market cycles (average +/- years).


  • Size of firm – larger firms will have more resources, backing and likely better compliance resources to protect clients.
  • Is the company they work for large enough to offer some protection in the case of a problem with the advisor or a product?
  • Do they promote in-house products which may be difficult at times for them to advise to sell or give objective advice due to conflicts of interest?
  • Does the company they work for allow a sufficiently large range of products, or are there products that the advisors would like to handle that are prohibited (ie. Alternative products)


  • Breadth of service – Ideally find someone that is licensed adequately to be able to assist with the key areas of your financial plan. Try to find an advisor who is licensed to handle both investments and insurance. If the advisor only has one or the other they may then be biased to the licensing they have.
  • Are they licensed in a way that will allow them to provide unbiased advice?
  • Are they only licensed to sell mutual funds?
  • Are they only licensed to sell insurance products?
  • Are they only licensed to sell securities including mutual funds?
  • What process do they use to structure their recommended portfolios?
  • Do they offer standard recommended portfolios or does it depends more on the timing of when the account or investments are being made?
  • How are investments chosen – is there a set procedure or is it based on the experience and likes/dislikes of the advisor?


  • Fee arrangement – Don’t be afraid to ask how the fees work. (THE PLANWELL FEE SCHEDULE)
  • How are they compensated?
  • Do they charge an hourly or flat rate fee – what is the hourly or flat rate and what is included?
  • Do they receive a fee based on a percentage of the assets under management which is charged against the account(s) – what is the structure of the fee – how much will you pay each year?
  • Do they receive a fee based on the assets under management which is deducted by the investment provider (ie. Mutual fund company) – what is the structure of the fee – how much will you pay each year?

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